Between life and art : Germaine de Staël and the discourse of female choice
This study examines Germaine de Staël's disclosure of the inequalities that existed for women of her era. It is centered around Delphine and Corinne ou l'ltalie and shows that Stael's novels function as one of the first French literary exposes on women's situation. An analysis of the connection between Staël's life and her art is undertaken. It focuses on her parental influences and on the impact the social and political forces had upon the development of her feminist thought and upon her evolution as a writer. In Chapter 1 I look at the first part of her life, concentrating on her relationship with her parents, her early works and her involvement with politics. This first chapter is crucial as I use it to establish a framework upon which analysis of her two major novels is based. Chapter 2 focuses on Corinne and the role of the paternal voice. It reveals that while exposing the injustices of women's lives under patriarchy, Stael also tries to address her own father's authority in her life. In Chapter 3, I examine Delphine and the role of the maternal voice. I find that the novel is Staël's response to her mother's influence in her life, as well as to her political experiences. Thus, I suggest that these events prompted Staël to write a novel that would call attention to women's situation. Ultimately, I find that Staël is a forerunner of modern feminism. And although her novels never propose radical solutions to the problems of inequality, they nonetheless offer hope for change, by suggesting that future generations can profit from current struggles. I see Staël's fiction as the first step in the creation of a French feminist canon.